Workers of the defunct Nigeria Airways have called on the Federal Government to hasten the payment of their entitlements, which have been pending for about 10 years.
According to the workers, apart from a little percentage paid during the Umaru Yar’Adua administration, nothing has been done despite all efforts that have gone into the process.
A former senior pilot with the airline, Capt. Jaiye Adeola, said revently that the entire process was stalled during the period that former President Goodluck Jonathan was in office as they were ignored for six years but added that the matter was resuscitated when the current administration came into power.
He said, “For 10 years now, no payment has been even the gratuities workers are supposed to collect immediately after lay off, only a little percentage has been paid, and that was during the Yar’Adua government. The Jonathan government did not even talk to us for the six years he was in office.
“We don’t want to confront the government; we just want to plead with the government to respond to us. We are all too old for a street protest; I don’t think any of us is younger than 70 years. It is unfair and inhuman to leave people for 10 years and not pay their benefits after they have worked for the government.
“The Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, had also made efforts being an aviator himself, and we have been hearing lots of stories that approval has been given for nearly a year now but nothing has happened.”
Our correspondent gathered that members of the Elders’ Forum made up of former management staff of the airline and workers above 60, including Christians and Muslims now gather on Fridays to pray at a location at the airport for a divine intervention on the matter.
The Nigeria Airways, which was the country’s national carrier, came into being in 1958, and stopped operations in 2003 before it was liquidated in September 2004.
The Chairman of the Elders’ Forum, Mr. Godwin Jibodu, stated that after compilation, it was found that the amount owed the workers was about N78.3bn.
“The current minister had prevailed on the Nigeria Union of Pensioners to compile all the names of ex-workers of the defunct Nigeria Airways and the money amounted to N78.3bn and it was approved before President Muhammadu Buhari went back to London the second time on sick leave. Since then, we have been struggling to get the money and nothing has been done about it,” he said.
Earlier this year, it was reported that the Federal Government had dispatched a five-man team from the Ministry of Transportation to the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos over the final severance package for the ex-workers of the defunct national carrier.
The workers, however, said that they had been waiting for disbursement and had written a letter to the government, but it yielded no result.
Members of the Elders’ Forum also alleged that there were rumours that an anonymous individual had written a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to stop the payment.
The forum’s Secretary, Mr. Sheri Kyari, said, “We learnt that some of the documents for the payment are with the EFCC due to a petition written by someone we are not clear about. It was not signed by anyone and we have no idea of the content.
“And once there is a petition, the EFCC will want to clear it before payment is made. We are pleading with the government that even if it is true that someone wrote a petition, the government should still continue the process while investigation is ongoing. Innocent people should not be punished; the rate at which our members are dying is very alarming,” he said.